You won’t build authority by copycatting another writer, even a very good one. But you can improve your influence by following some proven practices …
1. Act against your own self interest
When you have an obvious agenda, people take what you say with a grain of salt. It’s like the mother saying her boy is the smartest child on the block.
But you can dissolve some of this skepticism by acting, at times, against your own short-term interest. Here’s an example …
I actively take pains to discourage people from joining my premium material. If they have credit card debt, I don’t allow them to join my flagship courses. If I found out they disobeyed me and joined anyway, I ban them from ever purchasing anything from me ever again — for life.
This costs me hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, but it’s the right thing to do.
Sometimes they can’t afford it. Sometimes they’re not psychologically ready. Sometimes they’re not at the place in life where it will make the most difference.
Why? Who in their right mind would openly say that his material isn’t right for everyone, and turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars a year?
Now, self interest says Ramit should take every available dollar that comes his way. His prospects are adults — they can make their own decisions. He could also rationalize it by saying that his program will help them get out of debt or grow up financially.
But he doesn’t. He cares about these people. And when a communicator has nothing to gain — and possibly something to lose — we trust him or her.
2. Try the “convert effect”
Who are you more likely to believe:
- A person who grew up thin, confident, an all-star high school and college athlete raised by Olympic-caliber parents, touting a fitness program based on eating french fries and sprinting up a 40-foot ladder for seven minutes every day …
- Or, someone who struggled with obesity their whole life, grew up in a family more interested in barbeque than barbells, and is a timid soul — touting the same program?
No question you’re going to choose person B. They are more persuasive because they didn’t start out as a fit athlete — they converted to that status after starting life as a coach potato.
Someone who’s taken the path from A to Z is always more believable. We share a sense of familiarity with people who have had the same struggles as us. We identify with the convert, because it convinces us we could make the same transformation.
3. Play hard to get
Most customers expect you to say things to please them. Make a change before they ran it in their magazine, he would rather pull it and give up the money. Strangely, these people chased him.
You do your prospects and customers a greater service when you maintain your independence and integrity, defending your hard work and turning down requests. People will see that you actually have their best interest in mind because you’re not falling over yourself to kiss their bottom.
4. Avoid influencing anyone
Did you know you can influence people simply by not influencing them?
For example, you’re more likely to take the advice to buy a certain stock if you overhear the tip during a whispered conversation between two well-dressed men at the table next to yours than you are if a broker called you up with the same information.
Give away a massive amount of high-quality content without asking for anything in return, and you’ll find a much warmer reception when it does come time to promote a product.
5. Establish a reputation for one outstanding quality
Your reputation should be simple, based upon a single, sterling quality — strategic thinking, say, or persuasiveness. This becomes your calling card. It announces who you are and gets people to shut up and listen.
Discover that one quality that defines you — and work it to the bone.
6. Court attention
Pablo Picasso dreaded the idea of getting lost in the crowd. So when his name started to get attached to a particular style, he would deliberately destroy that perception with a new painting style.
In other words, he destroyed his own popularity and re-created himself.
Don’t be afraid to re-invent yourself. Don’t be afraid to draw attention to that single, sterling quality that elevates you above mediocrity.
Sure, you may be attacked. You may be slandered. No worries. That fate is much better than being ignored. All professionals must have a bit of showman about them.
7. Be confident
Remember that timid soul back in tip number 2? The once-overweight hyper-athlete who lost weight through a diet of potatoes and a daily twelve-minute assault on a ladder?
That gig would never work if she were an insecure communicator.
The more self-assured and confident a communicator you are, the more likely people will accept what you say. For instance, get rid of hedging words in your content.
Any yet, on balance, affirmative action has, I think, been a qualified success.
A 13-word sentence with five hedging words.
Don’t do that.
Say what you think. And say it with backbone. Audiences want people with conviction. It will please those who matter to you. And probably piss off those who don’t.
Here’s an interesting series of tweets I stumbled across the other day:
Never discount someone’s skills because of a low profile. The smartest people in online marketing are low profile. Except for me, of course.
Work. Everyone needs to do it. Especially if you want credibility. If you want to be that expert.
Few people respect talking heads. We respect those who get up early in the morning and work late into the evening. Who seldom complain. And who deliver products we love.
9. Charge premium prices
We’ve always been taught that “you get what you pay for.” In fact, it’s not uncommon for a prospective customer to write off a product because it’s too cheap.
Yet, when it comes to setting prices, we often shoot much too low. This is a mistake.
- What are my success stories?
- Is it true that people can’t afford my services?
- Do I believe that anyone can do this?
- How can I save the world if I don’t have any money?
- What’s my true vision?
Let’s explore that third one.
All through high school, and into my early years as an adult, I used to think that everyone could write. That writing was no different than walking or doing cartwheels. I didn’t value what I did as unique.
I had a client bring this home to me when he said, “We could do this ourselves by spending the next 15 years learning how to write — or we could hire you.”
I no longer believe anyone can do what I do. And neither should you.
10. The Rule of Scarcity
People are motivated by the thought of losing something — even if they don’t need it. And this appeal is stronger than one based on gaining something of equal value.
Show genuine scarcity in the most tangible way you can. Point out what will be lost by not responding. Here are three ways to do that:
- Limited number — Produce only 100 copies of your art work. Hand-make a car. Give away only 1,000 invitations to your software.
- Limited time — A sale that ends in 24 hours, or a clogged work week that only allows for two openings to clients.
- Large population — You can create scarcity by indicating the number of people you’re making an offer to: “And I do suggest you reserve that property immediately. Why? We are only releasing two retreats to a list of people.